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L.A. legend explores secrets, sex, and love with “Bloodbound”

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Mike Bash and Gordon Thomson in “Bloodbound.” (Courtesy Highways Performance Space, photo credit: Sonja Brenna)

Michael Kearns – whose newest play, “Bloodbound,” opens January 19th at the Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica – has been a respected luminary of the Los Angeles theatrical scene, as well as a legendary activist-artist, for years.

After making his debut here as a performer in Tom Eyen’s notorious “The Dirtiest Show in Town,” back in 1971, he has continued to contribute edgy and groundbreaking theatre from onstage and off – producing, directing, and writing plays which have broken taboos, pushed boundaries, and opened conversations about queer life, LGBTQ issues, and HIV/AIDS awareness.  He’s written numerous books about the theatre, and contributed to many publications (including a recent article about the Harvey Weinstein scandal for the Los Angeles Blade).

He’s also never been one for keeping his private life a secret.

He first gained notoriety as a young actor in the 1970s – when, despite the widespread homophobia that plagued the film and television industry at the time, he came out as “Hollywood’s first openly gay actor” and still managed to maintain a healthy career in the mainstream while keeping one foot planted in the world of “alternative” art and theatre.  Then, in 1991, he made television history by revealing his HIV-positive status on “Entertainment Tonight,” subsequently portraying a similarly-affected character in a recurring role on “Life Goes On,” as well as making appearances in other shows that tackled the subject of HIV/AIDS.  A few years later, he went on to very publicly become the first HIV-positive, single, gay man to adopt a child (his daughter, he says, is “the most important force” in his life).

It should be no surprise, then, that for his latest theatrical endeavor, Kearns has turned to his own life for material.

“Bloodbound” is the story of two brothers – one a playwright, the other in prison for murder – who, as they enter their declining years, are struggling to make sense of the shared experiences that have led them each down their own divergent paths.  Raised by a mother who – as Kearns puts it – “has no boundaries, none,” their relationship to each other and to the world around them is shaped by a deep and closely held secret.  Now, three decades later, the playwright wants it to come out; his brother is not so sure.

This provocative premise begs the question of just how autobiographical a play Kearns has written.  He’s cagey about the answer.

“I’m not making any secret out of the fact that I have a brother in prison,” he says.  “But whether the play is autobiographical or not, EVERY play I write is autobiographical, every single word I write is autobiographical.”

Pressed for details about the plot, he is even cagier.  He says a few cryptic things about the state of the prison system in 21st-century America, and alludes to subject matter that evokes thoughts of the #MeToo movement, but not much else is forthcoming.

“I’m not being deliberately coy about revealing what it’s about.  But it’s so personal and so painful in so many respects, maybe that’s what’s coming across.”

That may be the case, but the sly twinkle of humor in his voice is an unmistakable sign that, like any good magician, he is determined not to reveal too much about what’s up his sleeve.  Nevertheless, he goes on.

“These two brothers have a very big secret, and it drives the play, and it has driven their love for each other.  And really, the playwright is just as imprisoned as his brother; they’re both imprisoned by the fact that they don’t talk about this incident that has happened.  So what they are really working towards, what they are really fighting for, is the freedom of love.

It’s funny.  You could say this play traverses the themes that I have been writing about for years.  In other words, it’s very sexually charged – but isn’t my stuff really about the freedom to love?  Does it really have anything to do with sex at the end of the day?  I write about sex, but am I not really writing about love?  I thought that was a really interesting thing to come up with at this point in my life.”

When discussing the stylistic form of the piece, he is much more direct.

“The plays that I consider my most solid, exciting pieces are in no way linear, ‘beginning-middle-end’ scripts, and they’re not intended to be.  I didn’t invent this concept, of course.  I think the word these days is ‘mosaic,’ or ‘impressionistic.’ They’re not like the plays we grew up on. This one has a sense of going back and forth through time.  It’s very theatrical, in that my character…”  He chuckles at this slip.  “OOPS, I mean the playwright character… serves as a sort of narrator, and throughout the play he has to conjure their past, to re-enact many of the incidents that have led the two brothers to this moment in time. Two actors play each brother, the younger and older versions, and they can ALL talk to each other.”

So why did Kearns feel the need to write this particular play, at this particular time?

“I think my inspiration for writing any play is that I have some primal, visceral need to figure out who I am.  Yes, I have a big investment in the community, and an investment in trying to make issues around sexuality less frightening for people – but I have to write, whether I’m inspired or not.  Also, I believe that we’re losing the love of language.  My writing is conversational, but then it flies into complicated, romantic, poetic, passionate language.  I think it’s so critical, because where else are we going to get this language, besides in the theatre?  That’s where I learned it, and I think part of what I’m doing is to say not to be afraid of going crazy with language, just a little bit.

Maybe most the most important thing I would like people to get from ‘Bloodbound’ has to do with looking at things that are unconventional or uncomfortable and just giving them a chance.  My characters are not written to be instantly loveable, or instantly relatable – it takes work to love them.  It’s a challenge to the audience.  It’s no different than me, Michael, having to learn to listen to someone who voted for Trump – it’s just painful to me, I don’t want to talk to them.  But at some point, we must learn to listen to other people, and that’s part of what this play is about.  I want the audience to increase their level of empathy.”

All this may seem fairly grim – but anyone familiar with Kearns quirky, outrageous work knows that it is sure to be served up with a healthy dose of humor.

“It certainly doesn’t sound funny, but it is.  It’s deeply funny.”

“Bloodbound” is directed by Mark Bringelson, and stars Golden Globe nominee (for “Dynasty”) Gordon Thomson, Greg Ainsworth, Mike Bash, and Hunter Lee Hughes.

Michael Kearns

“BLOODBOUND” by Michael Kearns

Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th Street, Santa Monica, CA (at the 18th Street Arts Center).

Tickets: ($25 general and $20 members/students/seniors) are available at www.highwaysperformance.org

Performance schedule:

Fridays: January 19 and 26 at 8:30pm

Saturdays: January 20 and 27 at 8:30pm

Sundays: January 28, February 4, 11, 18, 25, and March 4 at 3:30pm

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Vlogger StanChris; My religious mom reacts to Norway’s “gay Santa” ad

My religious mom reacts to Norway’s gay Santa advertisement! Let’s see what she has to say about it.

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Screenshot via YouTube

LOS ANGELES – The twenty-something StanChris, the Out YouTuber who has been building his audience on his YouTube channel by vlogging about the ordinary everyday experiences of his life as a young gay guy is back- this time interviewing his mother.

My religious mom reacts to Norway’s gay Santa advertisement! Let’s see what she has to say about it.

My religious mom reacts to Norway’s “gay Santa” ad

********************

S O C I A L – L I N K S

→Instagram : stanchris https://instagram.com/stanchris

→ Twitter : stanchrisss https://twitter.com/stanchrisss

Subscribe here!!: https://youtube.com/c/stanchris

Watch more: https://youtu.be/rjI4c7nSXkw

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Sports

Commonwealth Games head wants to meet with Olympian Tom Daley

“I want to make it my mission […] countries that criminalize and make it punishable by death for LGBTQ people are not allowed to compete…”

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Commonwealth Games Federation Katie Sadleir & Perry, the official mascot for Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games (Photo by CGF)

LONDON – Katie Sadleir, the chief executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) told British media outlets this week that she would be ‘happy’ to meet with British Olympic Gold medalist Tom Daley, to discuss the diver’s outspoken opposition to anti-LGBTQ+ countries participating in global athletic completions.

As the Federation gears up for the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games, Pink News UK reported that being LGBTQ+ is still illegal in 36 of the 72 nations and territories that will be in Birmingham for the games.

In his speech in October accepting the 2021 Attitude Magazine Foundation’s Virgin Atlantic Attitude Sport Award, the 27-year-old British Olympic Gold Medalist and champion diver took aim at 10 countries that have death penalties for people who are LGBTQ+.

Daley told the audience at the Virgin Atlantic Attitude Awards held at The Roundhouse Theatre in Central London that the Olympic Games should ban those nations.

Tom Daley with his bronze medal win at the 2021Tokyo Olympic Games
(Photo via Team Great Britain)

“These past Olympic Games there were more out LGBT athletes than at any of the previous Olympics combined, which is a great step forward,” Daley said. “Yet there are still 10 countries that punish being gay with death that were still allowed to compete at the Olympic Games.”

Reflecting on the fact that the Tokyo Olympics had for the first time ever more LGBTQ+ athletes competing, Daly said, “It’s all well and good speaking about those things but I think it’s really important to try and create change rather than just highlighting and shining a light on those things.”

The Olympian champion diver went on to tell those in the audience at the Jaguar Motorcars co-sponsored event he was going to make it his mission to effect change.

“I want to make it my mission before the Paris Olympics in 2024 to make it so that the countries that criminalize and make it punishable by death for LGBT people are not allowed to compete at the Olympic Games,” Daley said.

He then pointed out that those same countries shouldn’t be able to host Olympic games either- then he called out the upcoming World Cup in Qatar;

“The World Cup coming up in Qatar has extreme rules against LGBT people and women and I think it should not be allowed for a sporting event to host in a country that criminalizes against basic human rights,” he said.

Sadleir said she would be “happy to meet” with Daley to see how the foundation can “create an opportunity to raise issues in a safe environment”.

But she admitted she can’t “go into the countries” that criminalise being LGBTQ+ and “change their laws at this stage,” Pink News UK noted.

“We don’t set the rules for all the countries but what we do is to create a platform to discuss things that we think are important,” Sadleir said.

She added that the CGF has been “working on the concept” for a Pride House in Birmingham which will create a “safe space” for queer athletes to “come and discuss issues, to raise the profile of the community”.

Pink News also reported that the Pride House in Birmingham will promote LGBT+ participation in sport while also hosting a packed programme of entertainment before and after the games.

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Sports

British LGBTQ+ ally & Formula One driver; “Saudi Arabia’s laws terrifying”

The Saudi Arabian authorities need to realize that the best PR comes from respecting human rights says Amnesty International

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Photo Credit: Amnesty International

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia – Champion British Formula One racing driver and longtime LGBTQ+ ally Lewis Hamilton told the UK daily newspaper The Guardian in an interview that “he is not comfortable competing in Saudi Arabia given its repressive laws regarding the LGBTQ+ community.”

Saudi Arabia is hosting a Formula One Grand Prix race this weekend in Jeddah.

Hamilton went on to label those draconian laws as “terrifying” and called on Formula One to do more to address human rights issues in the countries it stages events in.

As if to underscore the urgency and clearly show his support the racer tweeted a picture of himself in his helmet which is adorned with a LGBTQ+ Progress Flag with a Non-binary symbol motif and the phrase ‘Equality for all.’

The Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team’s seven time Grand Prix champion driver had shown support for the LGBTQ+ community during the inaugural run of the Qatar Grand Prix Formula One race last month, which he won.

Lewis Hamilton 2016 Malaysia Grand Prix
(Photo by Morio)

Hamilton had debuted his helmet featuring the Pride Progress Flag, a redesigned and more inclusive version of the traditional rainbow flag, and emblazoned with the words “We Stand Together.”

Prior to the debut of the Qatar Formula One race and with the 2022 FIFA World Cup matches slated for 2022 in Qatar, focus once more fell on human rights issues. The Guardian reported that workers within the state have claimed that reforms to the country’s restrictive kafala labour sponsorship system have been ineffective while human rights groups continue to highlight oppressive male guardianship policies as well as discriminatory laws against women and LGBTQ+ individuals.

The Guardian noted Formula One attracted considerable criticism for racing in Saudi Arabia and Hamilton, “who has been a strident supporter of equality and diversity, admitted he did not feel at ease with the regime.”

“Do I feel comfortable here? I wouldn’t say I do,” he said. “But it’s not my choice to be here, the sport has taken the choice to be here.”

“Whilst we are here it’s important we do try to raise awareness,” he said. “In the last race you saw the [rainbow] helmet that I wore. I will wear that again here and in the next race [in Abu Dhabi] because it is an issue. If anyone wants to take time to read what the law is for the LGBT+ community, it is pretty terrifying. There are changes that need to be made,” Hamilton stressed.

The Saudi Arabian authorities need to realize that the best PR comes from respecting human rights.

Heba Morayef, Amnesty International

Responding to Saudi Arabia’s hosting of a Formula One Grand Prix this weekend, Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said:

“Over the last few years, the Saudi Arabian authorities have invested heavily in PR stunts to rebrand their image and attempt to deflect attention from their brutal crackdown on activists and human rights defenders. Although we saw a brief lull in executions and prosecutions of activists during Saudi Arabia’s presidency of the G20 summit, that ended immediately after the event when the authorities ramped up their repression once again.

“The Saudi Arabian authorities need to realize that the best PR comes from respecting human rights. If the authorities want to be perceived differently, they should immediately and unconditionally release all those incarcerated for peacefully expressing their views, lift all travel bans and impose a moratorium on the death penalty. Foreign governments wishing to deepen their relations with Saudi Arabia should urge the authorities to address their egregious human rights record.

“Any company holding major events in Saudi Arabia must identify, mitigate or prevent any human right abuses that it may cause, contribute to or be directly linked to through its operations, products and services, including Formula 1 and its Grand Prix races.”

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